Let’s talk about sperm health because research suggests that sperm counts among men have more than halved in the last 40 years.
The latest findings reveal that (between 1973 and 2011) ejaculated sperm in western countries has fallen by an average of 1.4% a year, with an overall drop of 52.4% . Even worse, overall sperm count fell by just under 60%. The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction Update drew on 185 studies involving almost 43,000 men.
So why has sperm health declined and what can we do about it?
Certainly, in my clinic, reasoning for poor sperm health seems to have multi-factorial reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as a recent bout of ill-health or poor diet but, more recently, childhood stress seems to have been the trigger. When I researched my considerations it seems that my theory was not unfounded. A study (2) has revealed that childhood stress does affect men’s sperm. I don’t like research on animals but this study showed that; in mice, the effects of these kinds of changes showed up in both the offspring and the next generation, the “grandmice.” In the Tufts University study they measured two types of sperm microRNAs (miRNAs) in 28 adult white men. They found that the levels of these miRNAs were lower in men who scored higher on a questionnaire used to assess exposure to abuse and trauma in childhood. If you think your sperm health may be influenced by your childhood I suggest you complete the test by following this link. For your information, MiRNAs are small molecules that regulate genes. Each miRNA controls a specific set of genes. These molecules don’t alter the DNA sequence in cells, but they do control which genes are active and when. Of course this is not the only reason for sperm decline – let’s consider some other factors.
Environmental toxins can also lead to low sperm counts, mobility & DNA sperm data mix ups.
Wi-fi is well known to affect sperm (more about this below).
Sports activities can also affect sperm.
medications such as antidepressants may cause damage to sperm DNA.
We also need to consider health, nutritional status, medical operations, a sedentary lifestyle and physical health issues
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) only 5- 15% of human sperm today qualifies as “normal! “
The good news
Men create sperm throughout their lives
It only takes 72 days to change sperm health (that’s less than 3 months).
With sperm health plummeting, here are 8 ways to improve sperm health now
Look after your weight and fitness
Exercise is of course important but balance is key! According to a 2008 study (3) (Aberdeen University), obese men have lower-quality sperm. Larger men have a 60% chance of having low volume semen & 40% chance of abnormal sperm.
Are you sports mad? Studies suggest that long-distance runners who ran more than 100 miles a week and cyclists who rode more than 50 miles per week have decreased sperm counts and are more likely to develop genital or urinary problems ( 4. Boston University, Fertility and Sterility Journal). There is also a theory that erectile dysfunction may be associated with narrow bike seats whilst Lycra in sports clothing increase body temperature. In affect you are “cooking your sperm”.
To produce high quality sperm, testes temperature must be slightly lower than the body’s core temperature – that’s why testes are located outside of the body. Saunas, hot baths, and even tight pants can impact the health of sperm by cooking them out of commission.
Keep hydrated and cool the testes post exercise with 30 seconds of cold water spray over the area. Wear loose natural materials when possible. Sperm can only be produced at a temperature of 32◦c, normal body temperature is 37◦c. July and August are the lowest months for conception – probably because heat weakens the reproductive systems.
Are your gadgets affecting your sperm health? (Computers/Lap Tops/Tablets/Smart Phones etc):
Technology may be ever changing but research suggests it affects sperm health. Cell phone radiation has long been associated with damaged sperm DNA and sperm morphology. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report “…in the most striking findings, men who carried their phones in a pocket or on the belt were more likely to have 11% fewer mobile sperm and/or more inactive or less mobile sperm. Men who talked on the phone for more than 60 minutes per day had 17% fewer motile sperm than men who talked on the phone for less than 15 minutes per day.” So what about the Bluetooth device then? The EWG believe that this may make matters worse.
Keep all phones and computers out of your pockets and away from your body. When speaking on your mobile keep the conversation short using the speaker function if possible. Turn phones and tablets off at night & out of the bedroom! Ensure your lap top or i-pad/tablet is not placed on your lap. (5)
Did You Know? Healthy sperm can survive for about 48 to 72 hours inside a woman’s body and in the right conditions can live for up to 5 days.
Sperm reaches the woman’s fallopian tubes 30-60 minutes after ejaculation
Sperm are produced at an average of 1,500 per second from each testicle
3. Eat right for good sperm health: Yeah, I know I am a nutritional therapist so of course I am going to bring this into the discussion but eating good quality food is key for sperm health.
Remember this: Pesticides, preservatives, additives and food colourings have been linked with health problems and I always suggest avoid them when trying to conceive. Food packaging including plastics, aluminium, BPA and heavy metals such as mercury can leach into your body through cooking and re-heating foods. Chemicals used in pesticides and the manufacturing of plastics mimic the action of oestrogen and have been linked with infertility in humans, fish and animals. Toxic metals including lead, cadmium, mercury, aluminum and copper – all of which have an adverse effect on reproductive health! Once absorbed in the body, toxic metals displace vital nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, enzymes and hormones.
Have a Fertility MOT to assess your current nutritional health and receive a personalized nutrition programme to suit your sperm status. Don’t worry, the clinic can organize functional laboratory tests to assess sperm status.
Buy fresh natural seasonal foods – preferably organic or free range which do not contain growth hormones and antibiotics. It’s so easy these days – look at all the organic recipe boxes available and delivered to your door!.
Choose fish from sustainable sources. Eat “smaller fish” which are less likely to contain harmful heavy metals. Omega 3 enhances sperm quality and motility so salmon, mackerel and herring are good choices providing they are sourced well. Eat nuts and seeds! Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium which may increase sperm count whilst all nuts and seeds contain zinc which is needed for sperm development. Include at least 8 portions of brightly coloured vegetables and 2 portions of fruit daily as they are high in antioxidants – these help mop up free radicals & help sperm health. Tinned produce may be convenient but keep it to a minimum – opting for fresh or frozen food wherever possible.
4.Reduce Caffeine, Alcohol, Recreational Drugs and Addictions:
Alcohol, smoking, orthodox medication, street drugs, caffeine, sugar, excessive exercise regimes & addictions all need to be assessed. The Creation Programme recommends a mind/body approach to health including nutritional therapy . Did you know amino acid therapy can help to restore normal brain chemistry and reduce cravings?
Alcohol: Alcohol causes penis atrophy/semeniferous tubules whilst increases abnormal sperm, decreases sperm concentration, motility and in extreme cases causes sterility and impotence. Yes, I know we all enjoy a glass of vino , alcohol is an “accepted social toxin” but it remains a teratogenic substance and reduces nutrient absorption and affects gut health detrimentally.
Coffee: Studies show that the more coffee men drink per day the more likely they are to have sperm abnormalities – caffeine affects sperm motility and, in large amounts, has been shown to immobilise sperm.
Substitute caffeine with pure water, herb, Bambu or Barley Cup or Caro or Rooibosch tea. If you are on any medication it is important to check with your GP that it is caffeine free. Giving up/reducing stimulants coffee, tea, alcohol and cola drinks etc can cause problems. To reduce withdrawal symptoms reduce your intake over a period of a week or two before excluding. If you drink more than 4 cups of either tea, coffee, cola’s etc daily introduce new tastes by alternating your usual drink with water or a grain-based coffee substitute such as Barley Cup, Caro, Caro Extra, Dandelion coffee or Yannoh. Normal tea can be substituted with Rooibosch or herb tea. Some people prefer hot water with a slice or lemon or lime or the occasional mug of hot reduced salt vegetable bouillon. Once you have found a selection of drinks you like then reduce the coffee, tea or stimulant down further to only once per day before eliminating it altogether
Sperm Health is affected by street drugs and medication:
Street cannabis damages sperm health production and placental health. Did you know when you smoke cannabis 421 chemicals combust into over 2000 other chemicals. These cushion into fat surrounding your body organs including your testes. One of these compounds is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). We know that THC interferes with DNA & increases the chances of in-fertility or a malformed child.
Cocaine or Crack: research shows increased low birth weight, malformation, life long brain damage and psychiatric problems for both the user and your child.
Opiates: Heroine and methadone increase the risk of miscarriage, still births and mental instability.
Prescription Drugs: Painkillers, tranquilisers, anti-depressants and over the counter products are not necessarily “safe” during a pregnancy or pre-conceptual programme. It is important that you check with your GP whether they are safe or be provided with safe alternatives.
Men have a biological clock and it starts ticking from around 35 years of age. Research confirms men 35+ have lower sperm count, motility and increased risk of DNA damaged sperm. The World Health Organisation (1992) state that there should be more than 20 million healthy sperm within any ejaculation to enable a conception.
Smoking – whether that be Vaping or traditional :
Detrimental to health, fertility and your future child’s health. Did you know it can take up to 10 years to remove the toxins from a smokers body? Nicotine, gas and the vapour contains thousands of toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, growth retardative and immunosuppressive compounds, which include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, cyanide, carbon monoxide, lead and cadmium, ammonia and insecticides. The American tobacco industry, under pressure from Congress have named a further 599 chemicals it adds to cigarettes. When it comes to sperm health smoking decreases sperm density/count/motility & reduces testosterone.
7. Toiletries, Skin Care and the Shower:
Petro-chemicals can affect your immune system and increase the risk of allergies and intolerances. Synthetic hormones, chemicals and phthalates are everywhere – in your body cleansers, hair products, household cleansers and vinyl shower curtains. Not only are you surrounded by chemicals, but heat from your shower makes it easier for the phthalates to be released.
Use simple, plant-based, unscented and free of harmful phthalate-containing products. There are many wonderful natural product ranges available. Download Creation Fertility Guide to Skincare and The Creation Fertilty Guide to Environmental Toxins
Case Study: Mr. M is 33 years old. He and his wife have been diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”. These test results show how a male supplementation and nutritional programme can support sperm health.
Sperm test from GP – sperm count 19 million
3 months later – Mr. M had been taking supplementation and addressing dietary recommendations. Sperm count 25 million
4 months later – continuing with programme – 85 million. Month later a positive pregnancy confirmed.
8. Till receipts:
40% of receipts today are coated with the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). Previously, BPA has been linked to fertility problems and heart disease, but a study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility (6) shows that higher levels of BPA in your urine lowers your sperm count and sperm quality.
Avoid sitting for long periods of time, driving for extended hours or wearing tight clothing. Stand up and take short walks periodically – all these support mechanisms can encourage sperm motility and mobility.
Watch out for vinyl sex toys. Vinyl unleashes phthalates which are plastic-softening chemicals that have been linked to cancer, allergies, birth defects and infertility. If you want to use lubricants choose ones without chemicals – look for the brand YES.
Did You Know? Testes produce oestrogen. Oestrogen imbalances affect male fertility, reduce libido, sperm health and change their body shape. Man boobs and weight gain around the hips indicate excess oestrogen.
Justine Evans ND, B.Sc Nut Med NNA M.GNC is a Registered naturopath and nutritional therapist. She is the founder of Creation Fertility and its products. Call 07747 133170 to arrange an appointment with her now
Disclaimer: Every case is individual. My thoughts, discussion and dietary thoughts do not take into account your personal fertility health considerations nor dietary needs. I always recommend personalised nutrition healthcare guidance specific to your personal circumstance before making changes to your diet.
- J Hum Reprod Science 8(4); Oct-Dec 2015 PMC4691969
- Dickson et al. Translational Psychiatry (2018) 8:101 DOI 10.1038/s41398-018-0146-2 Translational Psychiatry
- 2008 study Aberdeen University
- Boston University, Fertility and Sterility Journal.
- Jonas: Mosby’s Dictionary of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (c) 2005, Elsevier considers that electro pollution affect well being. ewg.org
- Till Receipts – Fertility and Sterility